Cheavers shutout Vikes in Cheeseburger opener

It was just a matter of time for the RWD varsity hockey team Thursday night at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena.
The local dominated play against the Stoughton Vikings in a fast paced, rugged, but clean game but had nothing to show for it after a period. Persistence and patience paid off in the middle frame though with four unanswered goals – all triggered by seniors.
That was more than enough to lift the team to the winners’ side of the bracket on opening night of the 10th version of the Monk’s Cheeseburger Classic tournament at the Poppy Waterman Ice Arena with a 4-0 win.
Exact scoring details were not available at the time this was written, but coaches confirmed after the game, Jon Zobel, playing in his fourth Cheeseburger Classic, paced the offense with his first ever two-goal game with others added by Ben Jones and Derek Pawlak.
Meanwhile, junior Logan Sullivan made his season debut in goal a perfect one for the Cheavers. He didn’t face a lot of shots, but he made some solid stops along the way to put up the shutout.
Assistant coach Jeramy Greenwood said it was nice to see the seniors step up in their last chance at a Cheeseburger Classic championship.
“That’s something we were looking for early in the season,” said Welch. “We were looking for (the seniors) to step up, not only on the ice, but off the ice as leaders. Maybe this game was kind of a coming out party for the seniors.”
Success came in the middle period as the team stayed calm and never broke from the team systems said coach Greenwood.
“Yeah, that’s the message, you just have to keep working. You’re going to have games like that where there’s opportunities and they just don’t go in. You run into a hot goalie, but every dam breaks after a while, whether it’s one period, two periods, three periods. You just keep going, working hard,” said Greenwood adding the RWD team put an average of 15 shots per period at the Stoughton keeper.
“You hope one or two go in and then when it rains it pours and that’s kind of what happened. I think we could have had more than four goals, but we’re happy with four.”
The Cheeseburger Classic tournament has traditionally been a big event for the RWD team in seasons that seem to be over in a blink. The season is barely a month old, but the Christmas tournament triggers a crazy month of January that will decide everything from conference hopes to Sectional seeding.
Getting a boost from this tournament has carried a past team to the state tournament just as not so great showings here have in the past set the team up for bland finishes to the season as well.
Greenwood said the coaches are aware of the past highs and lows at this tournament.
“I think that’s the mindset,” said Kent. “If we don’t win the tournament, it’s a disappointment. We see some familiar faces in the tournament. We’re looking forward to the next game and we can build off this or it could be another low point. We don’t want that.”
The opening round win guarantees a top-four position at the tournament and tonight, the Cheavers move on to play former Badger North rival McFarland Spartans who defeated the Aquinas (La Crosse) Avalanche 6-4 in its opener. Other first day scores saw another Badger North squad, the DeForest Norskies beating Greendale Ice Force 7-2 while Tomah/Sparta opened with a 4-3 edge against the Wisconsin Rapids Red Raiders.
Game time tonight again is 7:30 p.m. and the Cheavers will be playing for a spot in the championship game.

Ducks down, but not out in USPHL playoff race

While showing some signs of snapping out of a funk that has plagued the Dells Ducks junior hockey team since early November, the team was definitely limping when it headed into the USPHL Premier League playoffs.
Certainly, the wins Nov. 2-3 against the Midwest-West division leading Hudson Havoc had to be a high point for the local club as the Havoc has only dropped three other games in regulation through the entire regular season – 28 games, to date.
When they followed it up with back to back wins in Chicago against the host Cougars the following weekend, things were looking up for the Ducks, but that’s where the season kind of fell off a cliff.
After the Chicago wins, the Ducks headed to Beantown where it dropped all four games played in a Showcase tournament. The woes continued on its return, the losing skid opening up to seven games before the Ducks finally picked up a 5-4 win against the Minnesota Blue Ox on the road Dec. 15. The Ducks fell the following day to the Minnesota Mullets and dropped three of four at the Midwest Showcase tournament heading into the Christmas Break.
The 117 goals against the Ducks is second highest in the Midwest-West Division behind only the massive 172 scored against the Kasson Vipers.
The Ducks challenged as a division front-runner early this season but now the team enters its final 11 games 10 points away from garnering home ice advantage in the opening round of the post season. In fact, if the post season started today, the Ducks would rank seventh and face the challenge of finding a way to defeat the Minnesota Moose, the same team that ended its season two games into the playoffs a year ago.
The season is far from over. The Ducks have shown it can win against the league’s top teams and that will be put to the test immediately after returning as the Ducks will being in Hudson against the division leading Havoc – the same team it earned that sweep against in early November. Of its final 11, only three will be on home ice, but the final four will all be against the two teams that currently trail the Ducks in division standings.
Getting home ice advantage might be a longshot now, but the team could still gain some momentum through the final weeks and use it to advantage as a playoff underdog.
The final six weeks will be a crucial time for the Ducks to become playoff ready.